Painful, maddening, horrible eczema – how it has plagued me. I’ve been afflicted since childhood, and it manifests itself as bouts of itchy, embarrassing welts on my legs, arms, face and hands. It’s hard to describe the abject misery of an eczema flare-up to those who’ve never experienced it. I’ve managed to get mine under control over the last six months or so, and I think realistically it’s probably in big part an age thing, but there are some products that have been magic along the way. Give them a go – I know I would have tried anything.
Before I start though, there is a glaring thing to point out: nothing will be more effective than a strong topical steroid cream prescribed by a doctor. The thinking on these has changed in that where doctors used to prescribe weak ones and then build up the strength if necessary, they now prescribe a stronger one from the start to try and just clear the flare up and reduce the overall time you are using it. Go to the bastard doctor’s and get the cream, despite how inconvenient it is. Once you know what you need, online pharmacy services become really useful: you ask for what you want, fill in a short questionnaire and a faceless doctor approves the prescription request. You can then have it posted to you, rather than having to take time off work. You need to do this even if you have cream left over from last time, as I’ve found that once they’ve been opened, steroid creams usually lose their oomph quite quickly. They are absolutely not a good thing for your skin, and have all sorts of sinister side effects if over used, but you really need to just get the eczema under control before any of the below will touch the sides.
Another thing to mention is antihistamines. An over-the-counter antihistamine is a brilliant thing, especially if you find your eczema is triggered by things like dust or pets. Experiment with which type as anecdotally, people usually find a certain kind much more effective than the others. I like cetirizine hydrochloride as it works quickly and doesn’t make me drowsy. Get it unbranded from a pharmacy or big supermarket by the way, it’s a fraction of the cost.
Obviously I am not a doctor, this is just my opinion, and you should absolutely not take any of the above as professional medical advice. It’s just what’s worked for me and my unique case. Now, on to the products…
CHILD’S FARM GRAPEFRUIT & TEA TREE MOISTURISER, £3.99
My husband found this online after pouring through Amazon reviews when he could see how mad my skin was driving me. It comes in a pump bottle with children’s hand prints on it (it’s a product for kids) but smells pleasingly of grapefruit and is somehow very soothing. I don’t know quite why, but this absolutely seems to nip a flare-up in the bud, and is a lovely body moisturiser. I wish it didn’t look so naff on the shelf, but you can’t have everything I guess – everything else in the excellent range is covered in cartoon animals. Remember when they used to do more ‘adult’ covers of Harry Potter so people could feel less ashamed reading goblet of fire or whatever on their commute? They should do that for great kids’ products.
DR ORGANIC MANUKA HONEY RESCUE CREAM, £9.49
This is a thick moisturiser from Holland & Barrett that also somehow just works. I bought it to try and sort the eczema I was getting around my bloody EYES of all places, pretty much expecting it not to work, but it’s magic. Eye eczema is a total bitch as you can’t use the steroid cream in that area as if you get it in your actual eyeballs it does horrible, irreversible things. Save your eyeballs and buy this.
LILY LOLO MINERAL FOUNDATION, £15
I prefer liquid foundation on the whole (The Ordinary serum foundation or YSL Touche Eclat, since you ask) but if you have facial eczema you’re in an awful place base wise: You yearn for coverage whilst your skin just sucks up all makeup in a horrible blotchy Singing Detective fashion, or worse gets even angrier. Powder mineral foundation is great for this situation as it’s very gentle and doesn’t seem to cake around your flare ups as much. It’s not perfect but has made me feel much better about leaving the house in the past. Lily Lolo is a really nice British brand, and they do great mail order samples so you can try it all before you commit. You’ll need a kabuki brush (the big chubby squat guys) to apply.
O’KEEFFE’S WORKING HANDS TUBE, £8.49
For a horrible six months last year I had the most horrific hand eczema. Like, couldn’t wear my wedding rings, couldn’t write with a pen bad. This didn’t solve it (this was a job for super steroids) but it absolutely made it more bearable. I much prefer the texture of the O’Keefe’s in the tube rather than the tub, I find it less waxy – you have to tread the line between something heavy enough for moisturising but not so heavy as you make your hands feel sweaty and greasy as that way more itch lies (god this is sexy).
LA ROCHE POSAY LIPIKAR CLEANSING OIL, £10
La Roche Posay’s entire Lipikar range is very good, but I especially like this cleansing oil, which gently foams but is super nourishing and smells rather nice. It also doubles as an excellent product for shaving your legs/armpits in the shower as it doesn’t foam too much and gives excellent slip to the blade.
AVENE CICALFATE REPAIR CREAM, £7.50
Avene Cicalfate feels faintly medical, which in this instance is reassuring – though you could have it out on your desk without people worrying about catching something from you. This one is a thick, healing cream that works well on dry patches, post cold raw noses and on patches of eczema which are at a dry, tight stage and no longer super itchy.
This is a French pharmacy product I first read about on the much mocked Goop website. It’s a light cooling cream which is the absolute best thing for sunburn but also works on angry eczema. It’s got a light watery texture without being runny, which I think is just right. It apparently encourages new skin cells to form, and I hear is popular over the Channel on post surgery skin.
Very old school this, and very cheap. This is absolutely brilliant for when things are a bit raw and (sorry this is gross but the only way I can think to describe it) wet. It just sort of dries out and calms down an angry itchy rash, and is a pleasing millennial pink. If it’s good enough for Eric Cartman, it’s good enough for me.
ELEMIS SKIN NOURISHING MILK BATH, £45
This is great because it does something rare: it is very gentle and soothing for eczema whilst also feeling luxurious and pampering. So many products that have any effect are very medical or for children, which can make you feel a bit left out of the soft-focus, Joan Collins, overflowing bubble bath world of glamorous products. This is spenny and treaty and gorgeous. I love it and would use it eczema or no.
LUSH ULTRABLAND £8.25
This cleanser did something brilliant for my facial eczema. I’m pretty sure it’s the beeswax: beeswax and bee products in general seem to work veh well for me. It’s a very good, if slightly utilitarian waxy balm cleanser, but I found it’s also brilliant used as a moisturiser on cracked skin. Not my favourite cleanser as it smells weird but I am forever grateful and reverent nevertheless.
This has been an absolute game changer for me. I never thought I would be the fake nails type, but I read about fake nails as an eczema cure on reddit during a particularly desperate midnight internet search and it’s amazing and makes total sense. The acrylic on top of your nails makes the nail itself thicker and the edges are filed. This makes your nails, crucially, gloriously less sharp. You literally cannot scratch your skin to the same extent. It’s like having mittens tapes to your hands, but without the impact on your sex life. You don’t need to get big wild extensions if that’s not your thing by the way, they can just put an overlay over your natural nail. I honestly think it’s the biggest external factor currently keeping my eczema at bay. See my guide on getting your nails done for more details on exactly what I ask for.